1. Not every place you stay has hair dryers available.
We stayed at a beach side motel near Bellina. Much to my dismay, there was no hair dryer in the room and no hair dryer available from housekeeping. I promise you, my air-dried hair is not a thing of beauty. A wide head band kept my hair at bay but I allowed no pictures of me to be taken that day.
Solution: take the smallest hairdryer you can find and tuck it into a shoe when packing.
2. Face cloths, or wash clothes are not known in Ecuador.
No wash cloths were available in any hotel or motel where we stayed, ever.
Solution: If this is important to you, buy a supply at Costco and take them with you.
3. Street signs and road signs are hard to see if they are there at all.
We drove around for a couple hours each trying to find our way out of Guayaquil and Manta.
Solution 1: Find a taxi driver and ask him to take you to the road to where ever you want to go. Have a Spanish speaking friend write the request on a piece of paper to show the driver. To get out of Guayaquil we followed a taxi to his home base and met a man who had spent his youth in Los Angeles. His accent was perfect. We offered him $10 to lead us out of town, then paid him when he had done that. He took his wife on the trip and I hope they had a nice dinner afterward.
Solution 2: When the directions don’t make sense, look at the directions of the shadows made by the sun shining on the trees in the median of the road. No kidding. We eventually made our way out of Manta but we didn’t see any street signs anywhere. There were some directions to the Airport but everything seemed turned around.
Solution 3: Ask the following question to anyone who looks friendly: “¿Donde esta el camino a _________.” Fill in the blank of where you want to go. The arm of the person you ask will swing up pointing to the right road. Go that way.
4. Don’t count on maps from the car rental or guide books being helpful especially when there are few road signs. Actually, it wasn’t the maps that were the problem, it was the lack road and street signs. I know I’m flogging this but it was a real problem.
We finally found our way out of Manta and were looking for the road to Jama. See solution 3 above. It was a left turn and impossible to see. We drove through the same town twice looking for that left turn. The turn was on the map but there was no sign on the road to indicate where it was.
Solution 1: Pick up a female Spanish speaking, hitchhiker from the bus stop and have her ask where the road to Jama is. Keep your eyes up, when she can’t find it watch for a car to turn on the road, up ahead. We couldn’t see the road because there was no sign and the weeds blocked the road until we were right on it. All three of us missed it twice.
Solution 2: Buy detailed city maps from a gas station or book store.
5. You will not be able to get a car with a GPS for any price until tomorrow.
Solution 1: Bring your own GPS.
Solution 2: Implement solution 2 above
Solution 3: Ask the following question of people on the side of the road: “¿Que is el nombre de este cuidad?” You should be able to orient yourself, or not, with the answer
Solution 4: Hire a driver. We did this for several excursions. It just wasn’t possible to have a driver for the whole time we were in Ecuador.
6. It’s dark at 7:00 pm every night. Really dark.
Since Ecuador is at the equator, dusk starts at 5:45 and ends at 6:15 or so. In Ecuador, life goes on after dark. Enjoy it and watch for pedestrians.
Solution: Embrace reality.
7. Don’t put your wallet in your back pocket.
One evening in Quito, we saw a young man snatch the wallet from another fellow’s back pocket. The victim tried to chase the thief down but was unsuccessful.
Solution: Don’t put your wallet in your back pocket, carry your camera and purse in front of your body.
8. Don’t rely on Fodor’s guide book to tell you where the best places to stay are.
Fodor’s gave information on the Holiday Inn in Manta, the second largest city in the country. That’s all and we never did find it.
Solution 1: Drive around and use your good sense to find a nice place. The two times we stayed in Manta we ended up in very acceptable accommodations. Ask to look at a room first. If the outside of a place looks OK, the inside is likely OK also. That was our experience. Ask your hosts about the best places to eat. Walk there.
Solution 1a: Ask this question at the front desk: ¿Tiene habitaciones disponibles?
This phrase is #390 from the book: 1001 Easy Spanish Phrases published by Dover Books. www.doverpublications.co
9. No one speaks English.
Except for the taxi driver in Guayaquil, restaurant workers in Quito and some ex-pats, this was true. None of Quito taxi drivers spoke English. Once we were outside of Quito it was Spanish, all the way.
Solution 1: Prepare some Spanish phrases in advance. I’ve given you some useful ones above. Take enough Spanish classes to learn proper vowel pronunciation. It will keep you from sounding like a gringo,
Solution 2: Take a Spanish Dictionary and phrase book with you. You can always point to the phrase you want to communicate. The driver drives, the passenger works the Spanish.Solution 3: Choose breakfast items that you know are reliable and your wait-staff understands when you order. My favorite was: huevos (eggs) con queso (with cheese) y jamón (Ham).
- Two more important phrases: ¿Donde esta el baño? Means, where is the bathroom?
- “Una cerveza mas, por favor.” Do I really have to translate that?
10. The currency is the American Dollar. Do you remember all those Sacajawea dollars minted several years ago? Did you ever wonder what happened to them? Neither did I.
In Ecuador one-dollar denominations are Sacajawea coins. The good news is: there is no currency fee on your credit card statement, when you buy in Ecuador.
It will be an adventure. Use your wits, don’t act foolish, have fun.